This issue, Katie Abson explores how beloved shows Pose and Bridgerton are influencing the catwalk.

Two shows renowned for their incomparable costume designs and cast of diverse characters, Bridgerton and Pose know exactly how to make a lasting impact on viewers across the globe.

Not only has Pose received over 1.2 million views on Netflix, it also features the largest cast of transgender actors to appear as series regulars on a television show; a milestone that is long-overdue, but triumphal for the LGBTQ+ community. The show explores the realities of New York’s ballroom culture, starring magnificent costumes that sweep the floor with detailing refined and poised for the judge’s critique.

Emmy nominee Analucia McGorty and co-costume designer Lou Eyrich understood that their creations were bigger than just costumes. They wanted to create a collection that would celebrate and uplift the women they worked with and respect the history of those who walked the balls in 1980s New York. The designers expressed how much of their influence and insight into the subculture came from Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, a film that chronicles the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities in New York’s ball culture, which McGorty said inspired her to take the job.

In the early stages of the design process, McGorty said that she carried a sense of responsibility to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community and its larger cultural contributions. This shines through on screen, particularly in the Pilot episode, where the House of Abundance strides onto the floor baring stolen museum gowns, snatching everyone’s attention and breath away. The costumes not only connect each character to their House, they also evoke a sense of family and belonging from the very beginning, an incredibly important aspect explored throughout the show that is reflective of the ‘80s ballroom and LGBTQ+ community. McGorty said, “being able to tell that story, both in and out of the ballroom in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s New York, when poverty was a huge problem and the AIDS epidemic was rampant, was so inspiring.”

Much of what we see in Vivienne Westwood’s 2021 Fall Ready-To- Wear Collection mirrors McGorty and Enyrich’s ‘80s inspired outfits in Pose. Velvet pantsuits, knee-high socks, bold chequered jackets, printed corset tops, and the star of the collection: ‘Daphnis and Chloe, 1743’ by French Rococo painter François Boucher, printed across dresses, bodysuits, denim and shirts, rivels the off-stage looks adorning the likes of Prey Tell, Elektra, and Angel in Pose.

Pose’s costumes are less about beatifying the characters but centre more around the message of unity and empowerment. The lavish ball gowns brought to attention through our screens were crucial to the trans community, in the 80s and current day, in building and uplifting a community marginalised through history. Dominique Jackson, who plays the formidable Elektra Abundance, said, 

“Empowering yourself through fashion, through the ball culture— is something that all of us do. We always want to be in the latest fashion because sometimes, that’s what gives us validation.” 

Since its Christmas day release, 63 million households have streamed Bridgerton, adapted from Julia Quinn’s bestselling Bridgerton novels. Phoebe Dynevor, who plays the beloved Daphne Bridgerton, describes the series as ‘regency with a twist’, and don’t the costumes show it.

Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick produced a collection of regencyinspired silhouettes unique to each character, with hand-crafted florals, layers of tulle, curved necklines with embellished rhinestones and a colour palette specific to each household in the show, ranging from water-colour pastels to acid-bright dresses and velvet tailored jackets. The women’s outfits were of utmost importance at the balls, true to 19th-century London fashion in being one critical aspect used to gain the attention of their male counterparts, all in hopes of securing a marriage proposal.

Yet the costumes proved much more than that in the show. The colour and texture of each piece were specifically designed to communicate the character’s emotion, evoking desire, drama, and allure. Daphne’s costumes consist of light colour palettes, sheer gloves, and dainty details, which alludes to her character’s innocence and naivety. The Duke of Hasting’s velvet jackets and crimson wardrobe creates a sensual air of mystery, dressed to parallel his charming personality. 7,500 pieces of bespoke wardrobe were made for the show, crafted only five months prior to filming.

Stating that there was buzz following the show’s debut is an understatement. The hashtag #Regencycore trended on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, where people showed off their regency-inspired purchases and hand-made gowns, with interest in corsets and empire-lined dresses surging since Bridgerton lifted our lockdown funk.

It also seems the #Regencycore buzz caught the attention of worldrenowned designers this year. Parallels between Mirojnick’s costume designs and Natasha Zinko x DUOltd Fall 2021 Collection are unmistakable. This mother and son collaboration stole the attention of online viewers worldwide at London Fashion Week. Diversity and authenticity underline their general concept, their use of gender-swapping models affirming the idea that clothing has no gender, and each piece can be worn by anyone. Sustainability is also important to this fashion-forward duo, something they are keen to work into their collection: the pair upcycled overstock and recycled old material from past collections in their mission to reduce wastage footprint.

Bridgerton-inspired creations can be spotted through the delicate details of a corset ending in extravagant puffed sleeves, tied at the bicep to release scraps of fabric that drape down to the wrist. But the stars of the show, in my opinion, are the first and final looks. The first being an off-white lace dress, the fabric torn to the thigh of the left leg to reveal tulle peeking out from underneath as if the wearer had stumbled and ripped their dress on the way to stop an illegal duel that could lead to their lover’s demise. The final dress is a satin baby-blue gown with extravagant shoulder puffs, an underlayer of black tulle and black studded crystals along the bottom as if the skirt had been dragged through a sparkling enchanted pool. These are just a few examples of dramatic imaginings that come to mind when looking at this marvellous collection.

Just as costume designers aim to construct a narrative through their designs, fashion designers also strive to tell a story through their work. Both designers aspire to evoke an emotional response, whether that be through the screen or on the catwalk. It is just one of the reasons why we love fashion so much.

If you enjoyed this article, you can follow more of Katie’s work on Twitter via @katieawriter. 

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